R.T. Rybak: I-35W Bridge Memorial for Reflecting - Not Reliving - Tragedy

August 01, 2017 09:01 PM

The Interstate 35W bridge memorial along the Mississippi isn't in a place you might expect. It's closer to downtown Minneapolis buildings than it is to the new 35W bridge. In fact, you can't even see the new bridge from the memorial. There's a reason.

"It's a peaceful place," said former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who added it's a place to reflect on the tragedy, not to relive it. "It's a place with information about (those who died). It's a place with specific names and specific individuals who were hurt and now are still with us ... and so it's a place where there's a lot of life and action around it, but just step back for a minute and remember."


The memorial sits just below the Guthrie Theater and along a popular biking and running trail along West River Parkway, across the street from Gold Medal Park. It's a place Andy Gannon came to reflect Tuesday with his 20-year-old daughter on the 10th anniversary of the bridge collapse he survived.

"She's the one who always kind of requests we should come down and spend a few minutes reflecting," Gannon said as he looked at his name on the memorial wall along with the names of other survivors. Thirteen pillars in front of the wall represent the 13 who died.

I-35W Bridge: 10 Years Later

Gannon was just getting onto the bridge heading north when it collapsed around 6:05 p.m. August 1, 2007. If it hadn't been for heavy traffic and difficulty getting onto the bridge, he likely would have been in one of the cars that plunged into the river.

"This has been a hard one, the 10th anniversary," Gannon said. "Harder than it has been in the years previously."

Gannon's daughter Kylee was just 10 years old when the bridge collapsed. She instinctively called him on his cell phone after she saw on the news what happened.  

"I got this weird feeling that something was wrong so I decided to call him and ended up hearing him screaming on the phone because it was right after it happened, so that shook me up and I remember that to this day," she said. "It's been tough." 

Kylee says she handed the phone to her mom and ran out of the house crying because she knew something terrible had happened. 

"I think it's kind of therapeutic for me, too, just to spend the time with him being here," Kylee says. "But I think it's also nice for him to just have a second to breath and reflect instead of just going through the day thinking about it all day."

Gannon often reflects on how quickly life can change.

"What I try to teach my daughters is you live life to the fullest, you treat people with respect and compassion, because you are not guaranteed tomorrow morning and life is extremely fragile."

In addition to the 13 who died, the names of 170 people who were on the bridge are listed on the wall. Gannon suffered only minor injuries even though he was on a span that dropped about 50 feet.


Tom Hauser

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